According to research by the Mental Health Foundation and Age Scotland, being chronically lonely is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The prevalence of loneliness can be felt by all ages, though many adults will experience depression or anxiety as a result of loneliness. For this issue to be tackled effectively on a national level, multiple solutions are required to help people feel that they are included, supported and connected within their communities. It's a complex issue needing a continued multi agency approach.
On an individual level, the feeling of loneliness can be often experienced 'despite being in a crowded room full of people'. There is a 'disconnect' – how we are feels at odds or somewhat different to those around us. That feeling often reinforces not only loneliness, but being alone. This is emotional – where you feel not understood, not heard, not included. We might even question whether we matter (to others) – our needs, our views, our being even. Feeling such isolation it's no wonder that it's not only sad, but bad for us (particularly if it's prolonged).
Therefore, what might we do to combat loneliness? Do we even know of anyone that might be lonely? While there is less stigma around the issue, people might find it difficult to admit that they experience loneliness in their lives. Reach out to someone you've lost touch with – be it a phone call, a surprise letter or direct message: just to say 'Hi, thinking of you'. It's about starting a dialogue. That act of kindness could make all the difference to someone, so go on and try it.